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Xbox On

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When I was at the Microsoft World Partner event in Houston this summer, I decided to treat to myself to an early Christmas present and got on the list for delivery of the brand new Xbox One on launch day.

Last Friday was the day when the hallowed parcel arrived, delivered in fine form by my new best friend, delivery driver Will. 

Before he arrived I could track his route progress so I knew exactly how many deliveries he had to make before getting to my house (in a non-stalker way, obviously).

Opening it up, the Xbox One was very quick to set up and I was suitably impressed by the simplicity and speed of the process…it looked good and the tiles screen, very similar to Windows 8, appeared to be very user friendly....until I realised that the console needed a system update of 600 MB before I’d even got it to do anything.

Getting over that slight bump in our new relationship, I watched the helpful guide for exploring the Xbox as long as any man who doesn’t like reading instructions can, before immediately trying out some of the features.

I opened the FIFA 14 box before realising that there wasn’t a disc in it.  Flummoxed, I thought there had been some sort of mistake until I saw a flap which said that all the instructions I needed to install the game were underneath.

I’ve already confessed to not being good at accepting I need instructions, but with limited options I decided to play along.  Underneath the flap was a simple QR code, and all I needed to do was scan that code in front of the Kinect sensor which took me to the Store to download it.  I then had access to the basic functionality of the game.

I say basic, because I’ve not yet shelled out for an Xbox Gold account which allows you to access all sorts of web enabled features.  I’ll have to, mainly because you can’t even use Internet Explorer on the Xbox without a Gold account, and I want to be able to use the side by side on screen functionality of watching a TV programme whilst surfing the web. 

One of the coolest features of the Xbox One is the new Kinect with its voice and face recognition.  You can just say out loud ‘Xbox on’ and it will come out of standby mode.  However, the amount of commands you can make which will actually get listened to are fairly limited.

It’s not an intelligent system like Siri which can almost think for itself; most of the commands are pre-set so often you have to learn the right set of words to make it do anything.  Still, it's a great piece of kit and I've really enjoyed using it.

When you create your own gamer tag, the Xbox Kinect sensor will recognise you as you walk into the room.  And when there are multiple players, it can recognise them too. 

Cue much hilarity when I came downstairs to find the Xbox trying to scan both my six year old daughter and my dog, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they each have a higher score on FIFA than I do at this stage…

Along with its many good points, the Xbox One is not without its issues.  Mainly, it seems to require an extraordinary amount of updates.  On Saturday morning I came downstairs, made a cup of tea, said ‘Xbox On’ and got FIFA loaded up, before it told me that the game needed a 400 MB update.

This took a fair few minutes to download, so if I’d have known the update was needed before I made my cup of tea, I’d have done things the other way around. I’d have planned my waiting time.

With multiple apps and of course multiple games, I’m expecting an almost constant need to update things now, which isn’t going to bode well for my timekeeping skills, or the Xbox’s storage capacity.  And if you have a weak internet connection, you can almost forget it.

Microsoft have always said that they want the Xbox One to be the main hub of the living room, which every device can interact with – live TV, web, gaming. 

For me, it’s definitely a goal worth aiming for from Microsoft and they’ve made an excellent start.  I’m sure this won’t be the only iteration of the Xbox One; they will continually aim to improve it.

They just need to sort out their update issues and perhaps work on the voice interaction with the Kinect to make it a more intelligent system, but as I say it’s a fantastic start and the sensor in the new Kinect is a truly brilliant piece of technology.

There's still a lot of functionality that I need to use more such as the recording of achievements (though I need to make some first..) and the Snap screen, so if you've got the new console and would like to let me know how you're getting on with the features I haven't yet mentioned, please let me know in the comments.

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